An innovative study of how the Victorians used books, portraits, fairies, microscopes, and dollhouses to imagine miniature worlds beyond perception
In 1856, Elizabeth Gaskell discovered a trove of handmade miniature books that were created by Charlotte and Branwell Brontë in their youth and that, as Gaskell later recalled, “contained an immense amount of manuscript, in an inconceivably small space.” Far from being singular wonders, these two-inch volumes were part of a wide array of miniature marvels that filled the drawers and pockets of middle- and upper-class Victorians. Victorian miniatures pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge, mechanical production, and human perception. To touch a miniature was to imagine what lay beyond these boundaries.
In Worlds Beyond, Laura Forsberg reads major works of fiction by George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Lewis Carroll alongside minor genres like the doll narrative, fairy science tract, and thumb Bible. Forsberg guides readers through microscopic science, art history, children’s culture, and book production to show how Victorian miniatures offered scripts for expansive fantasies of worlds beyond perception.
Laura Forsberg is assistant professor of English at Rockhurst University. She was previously an NEH fellow at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. Her articles have appeared in Victorian Studies, SEL: Studies in English Literature 1600–1900, and other journals.
“Forsberg's book is impressive in its scope, cutting across disciplines--science, the book arts, art history, children's play, and literature--and incorporating both canonical and little-known works….The miniature will no longer be easy to overlook.”—Catherine J. Golden, Review 19
“Forsberg’s account of small-scale existence—from paintings and dolls to miniature books and even microscope induced fairies—provides a new angle on the practices of Victorian world making.”—Philipp Erchinger, University of Dusseldorf
“There is no other study that so effectively brings together art, science, and literature, objects from popular culture for both children and adults, and a wide range of ephemera.”—Janice Carlisle, Yale University
“Made in the era of an ever-expanding empire and ever-lengthening books, Victorian miniatures charm and baffle in equal measure. Laura Forsberg uses these tiny objects to answer big questions – about childhood, about book history, and about literature itself.”—Leah Price, author of How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain
“In this engrossing and deeply researched literary and cultural history, Laura Forsberg persuasively demonstrates how the “miniature”– from scientific investigation to art, fiction, and childhood play– served throughout the Victorian period as a crucial portal to imagined worlds.”— Ivan Kreilkamp, author of Minor Creatures: Persons, Animals, and the Victorian Novel
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